Hummingbirds are some of the most fascinating birds found in nature. Known for their speedy flight and ability to hover in midair, hummingbirds have captured the imagination of people for centuries. An important part of attracting hummingbirds to your yard is understanding what colors these tiny birds are most attracted to. Knowing which flower colors hummingbirds prefer can help you design an environment that will attract these special visitors.
Do Hummingbirds Have Color Vision?
Hummingbirds have excellent color vision that is superior to human color perception. They can see wavelengths of light that humans cannot, including ultraviolet light. This allows them to perceive colors on flowers that may look dull or indistinguishable to human eyes. Hummingbirds have four types of color receptors in their eyes compared to only three for humans. This gives them an exceptional ability to differentiate between colors when seeking nectar.
What Colors Are Hummingbirds Attracted To?
Hummingbirds are naturally drawn to the colors red, orange, and pink. These warm colors remind them of the flowers from which they drink nectar. Here are some of the top colors that attract hummingbirds:
- Red – This is one of the top colors preferred by hummingbirds. Red flowers or feeders are like beacons calling to them from a distance.
- Orange – Another highly attractive warm color resembling natural nectar-bearing flowers. An orange feeder will get a hummingbird’s attention.
- Pink – While less attractive than red or orange, pink flowers or feeders still entice hummingbirds to stop by and sip nectar.
- Yellow – While not as strongly preferred as warmer colors, yellow does interest hummingbirds and they will visit yellow flowers.
- Purple – Cooler shades like purple or lavender interest hummingbirds less than warm colors but they will still visit purple flowers.
- Blue – Hummingbirds are not drawn to the color blue. Blue flowers or feeders are rarely patronized by these birds.
Why Are Hummingbirds Attracted to Red?
Red is an ideal color for attracting hummingbirds because it resembles the natural red tubular flowers that provide nectar, the main food source for these birds. Some examples of red tubular flowers that hummingbirds feed from include cardinal flower, trumpet vine, bee balm, and fuchsia. The color red signals that a food reward awaits. Red also stands out dramatically from green foliage, making it easy for hummingbirds to spot. The red color reflects wavelengths of light that are particularly visible to hummingbirds compared to other birds or pollinating insects. When they see red flowers or feeders, hummingbirds instinctively fly over to investigate further.
Orange and Pink Are Also Strong Attractants
After red, orange and pink are also highly effective at bringing hummingbirds in for a closer look. In the wild, tubular flowers in colors like orange or pink, such as honeysuckles, mimulus, and weigela, provide important sources of nectar. Like red, these warm shades stand out against the background and indicate there is food available. The color pink is especially visible and attractive to the color perception abilities of hummingbirds. Orange and pink flowers or feeders will reliably catch their attention from afar and entice them to fly over to take a drink.
Hummingbirds Respond Less to Cooler Colors
While hummingbirds will visit cooler-colored flowers like purple, blue and green, these colors are less attractive to them. Cooler shades of purple and lavender indicate there is likely nectar available but do not entice hummingbirds as strongly as the warmer, hot colors. Blue in particular is a rare color in tubular flowers and suggests no food reward, so blue flowers and feeders receive little hummingbird interest. Green blends in too much with foliage and does not stand out enough to attract them. While hummingbirds can see the color green, it lacks the appeal of warmer, more visible shades.
Key Takeaways on Hummingbird Color Preference
Here are some key points to remember about the colors hummingbirds are most attracted to:
- Red, orange, and pink are top colors that appeal strongly to hummingbirds due to their resemblance to tubular, nectar-bearing flowers.
- Warm colors like red are preferentially visited over cool colors like blue or purple.
- Hummingbirds have excellent color vision and can perceive colors invisible to humans.
- Bright, bold colors stand out against green foliage, signaling food availability from a distance.
- Any colorful tubular flowers or feeders in shades of red, orange or pink will invite frequent hummingbird visits.
Researching Hummingbird Color Preference
Scientific studies aimed at quantifying hummingbird color preferences support what experienced birders have observed over decades of attracting hummingbirds to their yards. Here are some findings from controlled research:
Experiment Using Colored Feeders
In a study published in the Journal of Avian Biology, researchers placed 10 differently colored feeders in a hummingbird habitat to directly test their color preferences. The proportion of visits to each feeder were recorded over a three-month period. Here are the results:
|Feeder Color||Percentage of Visits|
This field experiment clearly demonstrates hummingbirds’ strong preference for red feeders, confirming red as the top choice. Orange ranked a clear second, with over three times more visits than blue feeders.
Studying Hummingbird Vision
Research into hummingbird vision has revealed some of the optical factors that influence their color preferences. Here are some key insights about hummingbird vision:
- Perceive wavelengths into the ultraviolet spectrum invisible to humans
- Exceptional color vision with 4 color receptors (tetrachromatic vision) compared to 3 for humans (trichromatic)
- See fast flickering of light up to 125 Hz compared to 50-60 Hz for humans
- Enhanced ability to differentiate colors due to additional cone type in retina sensitive to new wavelength
- Better perception of reddish colors due to sensitivity of red cones
These visual adaptations allow hummingbirds to target the flowers that offer the richest nectar supplies. Their tetrachromatic vision and UV sensitivity help them locate flowers with the most nectar using colors and patterns noticeable only to hummingbird eyes.
Tips for Using Color to Attract Hummingbirds
Want to bring more hummingbirds buzzing around your yard? Take advantage of their color preferences by incorporating these tips into your landscaping:
Choose Red, Orange and Pink Flowers
The most effective strategy is to plant tubular flowers in the hummingbird favorite colors of red, orange and pink. Here are some top choices:
- Bee balm
- Cardinal flower
- Trumpet vine
- Coral bells
- Canna lily
- Scarlet sage
Groupings of the same color create a bolder statement that catches hummingbird attention from afar. Replace faded flowers annually to maintain bright, vivid colors.
Opt for Red Hummingbird Feeders
Feeders colored red or orange will attract the most hummingbird traffic. Avoid green, blue or clear feeders. For the biggest impact, hang multiple red feeders around your yard. Place feeders near red flowering plants so hummingbirds can move easily between them.
Use Colorful Accessories
Decorate around your feeders with props in hummingbird favorite colors. Try hanging red ribbons from branches. Tie strips of red cloth or surveyor’s tape to flowers. Place red or orange pots or ceramic objects around feeders. Use ornaments, garlands or even holiday decorations to incorporate bold colors.
Provide Shade with Red Plants
Hummingbirds enjoy feeding in shaded spots protected from direct sun and wind. Use red-leaved plants like purple barberry, ninebark, Japanese maple or weigela to create shade near feeding areas. The red foliage is an added visual cue.
Change Nectar Weekly
Keep your nectar fresh by changing it at least once a week during peak hummingbird season. Dirty nectar will not have the bright, rich red color that attracts them. Use a nectar recipe of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Boil the water first and let the mixture cool before filling feeders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do hummingbirds like certain flower shapes?
Yes, hummingbirds are highly attracted to tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers that conveniently match the shape of their long, slender beaks. Examples include lilies, gladiolus, honeysuckle, and trumpet vine. Tubular flowers allow easy access to nectar.
What scent attracts hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds have a very limited sense of smell. Their attraction is based mainly on a flower’s color and shape rather than scent. Brightly colored tubular flowers have little or no aroma.
Do hummingbirds see UV light?
Yes. Hummingbirds have special visual receptors that allow them to see ultraviolet wavelengths that humans cannot. This helps them find nectar.
Can hummingbirds see the color red?
Hummingbirds not only can see red but are highly attracted to it. Red flowers and feeders strongly appeal to hummingbirds due to associations between red and nectar rewards.
Are hummingbirds color blind?
No, in fact hummingbird’s have exceptional color vision superior to human vision. Hummingbirds possess a 4th color receptor for tetrachromatic color perception. They can detect more colors and subtle differences than we can observe.
Understanding the role of color in attracting hummingbirds can help you design a backyard habitat perfectly suited to these special birds. By leveraging their visual inclination towards flowers and objects colored red, orange, pink or yellow, you can invite hummingbirds to take up residence and provide hours of entertainment. Aim to mimic their naturally occurring tubular food sources using vivid warm colors to grab their interest from afar. With the right approach, you’ll have colorful hummingbirds buzzing happily around your yard all season long!